Freedom for Immigrants was co-founded by Christina Fialho and Christina Mansfield with the goal of exposing and abolishing U.S. immigration detention.

 

OUR BEGINNING

Christina Fialho is an attorney who comes from three generations of immigrants from the Azores. Christina Mansfield is a cultural anthropologist and a granddaughter of immigrants.  

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Together, Christina and Christina co-created the first visitation program in California in 2010 at the West Country Detention Facility, which has one of the most restrictive visitation policies in the United States.

Christina Fialho was in law school, having just finished an internship at the Global Detention Project in Geneva. Christina Mansfield was in graduate school, having just completed an independent research project on Operation Streamline in Arizona.  

Together, they joined forces with four other visitation programs around the country and established the national visitation network.

In 2012, Christina and Christina were selected as Echoing Green Fellows, and they formed this national visitation network into a non-partisan, non-profit organization called Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).

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Between 2012 and 2017, CIVIC grew the national visitation network to 43 immigrant prisons and jails, and launched the largest national toll-free hotline for people in immigration detention.

In 2018, CIVIC changed its name to Freedom for Immigrants and began expanding the immigration detention visitation movement worldwide.


THE STORY OF OUR NAME

"Nobody's free until everybody's free." - Fannie Lou Hamer

What is freedom? Who is free? 

The meaning of freedom and those who are entitled to it has been a recurring battle throughout U.S. and world history. And to this day, countries continue to deny people their right to exist freely. 

In 2018, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) changed its name to Freedom for Immigrants.  

We wanted a name that aligned with our mission to free all immigrants from the bonds of immigration detention.

We chose the word “freedom” because it has never been a fixed concept in U.S. history.  

  Photo of women detained at Yarl's Wood, an immigration detention facility in England.  Courtesy of Steve Bell. 

Photo of women detained at Yarl's Wood, an immigration detention facility in England. Courtesy of Steve Bell. 

Although the U.S. Constitution lists liberty among our inalienable rights, the U.S. government for centuries has deprived many people of it, from Native Americans to people stolen from Africa and enslaved for profit, to the Japanese who were sent to internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.

History has taught us that freedom is something worth fighting for, and we believe that no individual should be imprisoned for crossing a border. 

We also want to reclaim the word freedom and shift its meaning to one of empowerment, not disenfranchisement. 

Freedom exists within us. It is not for the privileged few. It is a right for all.

Another reason we changed our name to Freedom for Immigrants is because a private prison company began using what we believed was a confusingly similar name to our original name, CIVIC.  In October 2016, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the oldest private prison corporation in the world, changed its name to CORECIVIC. 

This happened one month after the California legislature passed the Dignity Not Detention Act, a bill our organization drafted to abolish private immigrant prisons in the State of California. CCA’s CEO said that the company was changing its name to “give them access to new markets in states like California that have previously resisted private-prison firms.” 

To us, this name change feels like a direct attack on our organization, designed to capitalize on the good will of our name and undermine our successful efforts to limit the growth of private immigrant prisons. We immediately hired trademark attorneys to fight this violation of our organization’s common-law and other trademark rights in the word mark CIVIC.  

Refusing to change its name, CCA attempted to buy us out with a settlement that contained a strict confidentiality and anti-disparagement clause.  We refused to settle.  

This is not the first time CCA has tried to muzzle us.  In 2014, CCA banned our volunteers from visiting after they reported sexual abuse at the Otay Detention Facility in California, and then the corporation refused to let our volunteers back in to visit until they signed a confidentiality agreement.  Freedom for Immigrants successfully fought this essential gag order in 2014.  

And we will not be silenced today.  We will continue to speak freely, especially at a time when the immigration detention system is trying to silence those who are most directly affected.  CCA's new name belies the company's brutality and confuses people in immigration detention.  Rather than spending years fighting this attack on us in the courts, we chose to change our name — to disassociate ourselves from a corporate entity that cashes in on the suffering of immigrants and to reclaim and redefine the notion of freedom.

We hope you can join us in this movement to secure Freedom for Immigrants.